Working “On” Vs “In” Your Coaching Business

Lumia Coaching co-founders John Kim and Noelle Cordeaux discuss the balancing act required to run a successful coaching business.

The Everything Life Coaching Podcast, featuring Lumia Coaching founders John Kim and Noelle Cordeaux, is a deep dive into the experience and business of being a life coach. Subscribe to get new episodes weekly!

The Reality of Entrepreneurship 

Not everyone is a natural born entrepreneur. In fact, we’d argue that such a human may not even exist! And while it’s true that some people may be more suited to self-employment than others, everyone has the capacity & potential to build a business. 

After working with thousands of aspiring life coaches, we’ve observed that there is often a gap between the idea of entrepreneurship, and the lived reality of it. So whatever preconceived notions you may hold about entrepreneurship, our advice is to throw them out the window!

Having unrealistic expectations can stop you from seeing the whole picture, and recognizing the opportunities as they come… even out of your perceived failures. In other words, to get your coaching practice off the ground, it helps to expect the unexpected. 

Working ‘ON’ vs ‘IN’ your business 

Our clients will typically only see the end result of our work: the actual service we sell as coaches. But in reality, there’s a lot more going on behind the scenes leading up to that one on one face time with your coaching clients. 

For most coach practitioners, working "ON" your business includes:

  • Business strategy and plan
  • Financial systems 
  • Client questionnaire forms and exercises
  • A website or other online presence
  • Filing systems
  • Organized home office space
  • A little cushion in the bank

Once you’ve got these fundamentals in place, then you are ready to press go and start working “IN” the business. That’s where you’re doing the things everyone thinks of when imagining what it's like to have a coaching business. "IN" the business includes delivering the actual services you provide:  1:1 coaching, programs, retreats, trainings, or whatever else you’re offering at this time.

For many new coaches, the ratio of time you'll spend "ON" versus "IN" your business may feel out of proportion. But don't worry, you're not doing it wrong! Spending 50% - 80% of your time "ON" the business isn't at all unusual... especially as you're getting started.

CEO and Worker Bee Modes

A metaphor that helps us understand the distinction between all the different ways you’ll be working “ON” your business is that of the CEO versus the Worker Bee. Both are important aspects of managing your business, along with the strategy, systems, and planning that keeps you moving forward.

CEO mode is when you’re looking into the future and thinking big.

This is where you vision and come up with ideas for new services, offerings, and programs. It’s creative and expansive. It’s also where you develop your long term plans, and how to execute them. 

Common CEO tasks include:

  • Strategy and planning: annual revenue forecast, budget, and workplan for the coming quarter or year.
  • Building your audience: tracking analytics, marketing & brand strategy, ideas for growing the business.  
  • Learning and growth: reading about new trends in coaching, taking classes in your area of specialty, networking with other coaches. 

Worker Bee Mode is about getting the day to day work done.

This is where you attend to the various aspects of running your business. It’s all the little things you do that make your coaching “pop”. 

Worker Bee tasks include:

  • Client check-ins. Following-up with current clients, and following through on new leads.
  • Financials. Preparing invoices and collecting payments, paying bills and tracking expenses. 
  • Content creation. Creating social media posts, website copy, blogging, podcasting, advertising, and developing program materials.
  • Client administration. This will look different for everyone. It might include uploading session recordings to DropBox, updating client notes, pulling together testimonials, or connecting with clients between sessions to share ideas and resources.

When it comes to running a coaching business, expect to spend time in both places. If you’re parked in CEO mode all the time, the day to day running of your business may grind to a halt. Likewise, if you get stuck in worker bee mode, you may hum along happily for a while… but your business is unlikely to grow. You need to be able to switch between the two: looking at the big picture, and then getting down into the work. 

Not Sure Where To Begin? Just Start.

This is probably the single most important thing you can do. You can spend hours, days, weeks, months… and sometimes even years in “thinking” mode. Talking about your new business idea, but never actually getting it off the ground. 

It’s easy to get stuck in the weeds, procrastinating or write lists of all the things you should do before you can actually start. But at the end of the day, there are no excuses for not taking action. All successful businesses get built the same way: one task at a time. One day at a time. One client at a time.

The key is to show up, and keep on showing up. Set aside at least one day a month for CEO big picture thinking. Then take just one tangible action every day toward the coaching practice you hope to build.  Imagine where you'll be in one year's time if you do!

Ready to Become A Coach?

One of our values at Lumia is that we dare to be different. Our coaches ignore the expectations society tries to impose on them, and seek to live from their own truth instead. If you are ready to step into your power and you’d like some partners in the process, come check out Lumia Life Coach Training. Grounded in science, our ICF accredited program features authentic instructors, a robust curriculum, and business instruction to prepare you for liftoff.

Lumia Coaching: Vibrant community. Evidence-based life coach training. Lifetime support.

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